That’s How It Has Always Been Done

Its_Always_Been_DoneThere are a few quips and phrases that make my body cringe like hearing nails on a chalkboard and one of them is the answer to the question “Why are we doing things this way?” which is often, “Because that is how it has always been done.”When I hear that phrase or that answer, my immediate response is, “Well, that is how I know it is time for a change.”A few weeks ago, my son was sitting with me as I was watching the first Democratic Presidential Debate on CNN. At one point he started asking me questions such as: What are we watching? Who are these people? Do they all want to be President? Does even that woman want to be President?That woman, being Hillary Clinton, is a name that most people in the world know and recognize. However, my son is eight years old and unless it is the name of a sports figure, or the President of the United States, he has no idea who these candidates are. However, being the inquisitive and bright little man he is, he began asking questions about the political process. After a brief lesson, he told me that he didn’t think Hillary Clinton would become the next President. I promptly asked him why, of course. To that he said, “Because no woman has ever been President.” With pride that he knew that, I then inquired as to what a woman would not be President meant. His response: “It has never been done and I don’t think people are ready for it.”Keep in mind, this is a child who believes that God is a woman. Women leaders surround him in his school and in his neighborhood. Most of the kids he plays with are girls. However, because the world has never seen a female as the President of the United States of America, and as the most powerful public figure in the world, his assumption is the world is not ready or it would have already been done. Interesting.Regardless of political preference or affiliation, this is an interesting perspective and one I think is relevant to our most basic life functions. When we are born, we cannot walk or talk. Those functions have to be learned. Before we can play soccer or play a tune on the clarinet, we must first learn the game and the functions of the instrument. In order for companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon to lead the market in innovation, they must have people at the helm who question the status quo and embrace disruption.After a moment of internal dialog with myself that might have gone something like, “Oh boy do you have a lot to learn! Are you serious child? How do I explain to you how twisted those thoughts are?” I see the serious and concentrated look on his sweet eight-year-old face and realized he is engaged, curious, and questioning…which is exactly the right time to be disruptive.I knew this was a teachable moment so I started asking him questions and talking to him about firsts, including the example of President Obama being our first African American President. We talked about several of the other countries around the world who have had and currently do have female heads of state, like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.And finally, I asked him how do we know if we aren’t ready if we don’t first have a female President? The beauty of the American democratic system is if we don’t like our leaders, we have the power TO participate in the political process and vote in new ones.Carter_patriotWith a furrowed brow and the wheels in his mind turning, he nodded and asked “Can we watch something else?”We see other sovereign nations electing female heads of state, yet so many still find it challenging to envision a woman in the White House. If we took the gender out of the presidential race and looked at the candidate’s values, position on the issues and vision for the future of our country, would it be so shocking that a woman just might be the best person for the job?Maybe, if we all had conversations like these with our eight-year-olds, no one would even think, “Because that is how it has always been done.”